How many situations have each of us been in that require God’s grace and power? It’s not easy to have patience with difficult people. Even more, how can we be kind to those who persecute us or treat us rudely?
It’s a good thing that the Holy Spirit is with us every step of the way in our walk with Christ. He is the one who cultivates these nine characteristics of the Fruit of the Spirit. We cannot do these things on our own. We would easily lose control.
In this third post on the Fruit of the Spirit, we will be looking at the fourth, fifth, and sixth characteristics of the Spirit’s resulting work in us. These three fruit of the Spirit are often spoken of as those characteristics that deal with our relationships with other people.
It’s not difficult to mess up our relationships through an impatient word or action, slipping up in our ability to be good and kind to them. Let’s take a look at these three closely related characteristics of the Spirit’s fruit in us.
There are two words in the New Testament for patience. One of these words is more about endurance, bearing up under pressure. But the word 1for patience that Paul uses here is the other word, meaning forbearance or long-suffering.
Patience has the idea of having a long leash when it comes to persecution and offenses against us. When we have this characteristic or quality from the Holy Spirit, while we are being long-suffering, we do not imagine or act out on thoughts of revenge.
God shows his long-suffering toward sinners, and we have seen it in our own lives first. As our first example, God has helped us to understand what it means to be patient or long-suffering. Because we have experienced God’s long-suffering toward us, we know how to treat others this way.
He put up with us when we sinned against him for the greater goal of seeing us as part of his family. He did not react to our sin by bringing his wrath right away. Instead he sent Jesus, his Son, to die for us and bring us into relationship with him.
We hold back in the time of offense. It is unnatural for a person to demonstrate this quality unless the Holy Spirit gives us the power to be patient. We could describe it as tolerance, but not as tolerance is defined today.
Tolerance today has been redefined so that it means acceptance rather than tolerance. Tolerance used to mean we are not pleased with the position of another person, but we don’t push our views on others, or that we don’t judge them critically for their views.
Now, to be tolerant means to accept and even promote the positions of our opponents. But the word for patience here is not referring to acceptance or promotion. It refers to tolerance, a holding back of our judgment or anger in the face of opposition toward another.
We keep it to ourselves without affecting the relationship. Patience avoids strife with others. No matter how much people try to goad us or irritate us, we hold ourselves back. We don’t allow ourselves to have an outburst against them.
Some people just want to see if they can irritate us. Although I’m not proud of it, when I was much younger in middle school, there was a girl in a higher grade that had this ability to be very patient. I made it my goal to see if I could make her angry. She never broke. I was always impressed with her composure and patience. For the most part, I have grown out of this tendency.
Opposite of a short temper, this is a long temper, a long fuse in the face of annoyance or irritation. We refuse to act out on the feelings we have in the moment and rely on the Spirit’s power to get us through the offense.
I think Paul puts it best when he talks about being patient with one another as Christians, bearing with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2). Perhaps bearing with one another is one of the best ways to describe patience. Whether it is Christians or unbelievers, we must allow the Holy Spirit to cultivate this characteristic, this fruit in us.
This is one of the reasons Christians should not be easily offended. We can be offended internally, but we must not allow the offense to goad us into saying or doing something that will not be easily erased. We must consider the redemptive nature of God’s long-suffering and emulate it in our own lives.
When we reflect on God’s kindness to us, it is easier for us to be kind to others. When the Old Testament declares God’s goodness, it speaks of his kindness toward humanity. Our only way to demonstrate kindness is to emulate God’s kindness toward others.
Kindness is one of the out workings of love. When we actively love others, we show them great kindness. Even those who do not deserve our kindness, we freely give it because Jesus gave us kindness when we didn’t deserve it.
In the original language, the word for Christ and kindness is only separated by one letter. Slaves were often given the name for kindness because one of its meanings is “useful.” It makes sense that Christ, God incarnate, who showed us his kindness, is so close a word to kindness in Greek.
The word for kindness often relates to love and patience. It makes sense that it comes after these other fruit of the Spirit since it is the outworking of both of these. To show kindness is more active than to be patient. But all of these work out of love, the first in the list.
As it relates to our relationships, kindness talks about our disposition. How we treat people when they approach us? It is a graciousness that we greet one another with. When we are kind to others, we give them the benefit of the doubt. We are benevolent toward them and gracious. We treat them with the same grace that God afforded us.
We care about others before we care about ourselves. This could be the opposite of selfishness. It’s often used as a synonym for goodness and gentleness. So is closely related to two of the other Fruit of the Spirit. I also put it under the idea of hospitality.
Goodness is a synonym with kindness. It’s a very general term usually, but here it may carry the idea of being generous. Kindness is almost a passive approach. People who are kind generally show it by their demeanor.
But goodness is more of an active approach. It is the act of showing generosity, of being generous. This is where we give ourselves and our resources to others without reservation. We’re not afraid to give to others whatever they need without thinking of ourselves first.
It often carries along with it a moral sense. To be good in the Bible leads toward other words like righteousness. It shows a quality of not only choosing the good thing in every circumstance but also cheering on anything that is good.
A good person is one who acts for goodness. It’s not a revolutionary or an activist per se, but someone who’s always on the side of good. This requires the Spirit’s power in our lives. Otherwise, we will not know how to apply it in some situations.
A couple of these words run together, probably because Paul is emphasizing the relational side of love, the first Fruit of the Spirit. In one sense, the other eight characteristics of the fruit are more of an emphasis of love.
But these are the relational aspects of the Food of the Spirit. They concentrate on how we treat others. God cares very much about how we treat others because how we them reflects how we feel about his image placed in every human being, whether they know Christ or not.
In our final post coming up on the Food of the Spirit, will focus on the last three characteristics of the fruit, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Stay tuned for the final installment. And leave a comment about how you apply these three characteristics of the fruit.